Trump campaign transfers $3 million to Wisconsin for recount

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President Trump’s campaign will seek a recount in two Wisconsin counties, it said Wednesday, alleging without presenting evidence that absentee ballots were illegally issued and altered, and county clerks advised voters on how to skirt the state’s voter ID laws, according to CBS News campaign reporters Nicole SgangaAdam Brewster and CBS News digital reporter Melissa Quinn.

The campaign said it is filing a petition with the Wisconsin Elections Commission for recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties, due to the purported irregularities and has transferred $3 million to the state to cover the cost of the recounts.

“The people of Wisconsin deserve to know whether their election processes worked in a legal and transparent way,” Jim Troupis, counsel to the campaign, said in a statement. “Regrettably, the integrity of the election results cannot be trusted without a recount in these two counties and uniform enforcement of Wisconsin absentee ballot requirements. We will not know the true results of the election until only the legal ballots cast are counted.”

Late Wednesday night, the Wisconsin commission agreed to issue an order to recount the ballots cast in the two counties. The vote was unanimous and came near the end of a six hours-plus meeting, Brewster reports. The session was filled with intense partisan bickering and several 3-3 deadlocked decisions along party lines.

CBS News projected President-elect Joe Biden won the state of Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes by more than 20,500 votes. In Dane County, Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump by more than 181,000 votes, and in Milwaukee County, the president-elect is ahead by more than 182,000 votes. Reversing that lead would be nearly impossible, as even statewide recounts typically change voting totals by just hundreds of votes.

“They’ve actually limited their ability to potentially overcome the relatively large 20,000-vote margin, by looking at only a small portion of Wisconsin overall,” CBS News election law expert David Becker said. “So it’s almost impossible — even with a statewide recount — that they would be able to net even a tiny fraction of the 20,000-vote margin. And they’re only looking at a small portion of Wisconsin, so the likelihood is even less. Their chances are about as close to zero as you can get.”

TRANSITION WATCH

PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN

President-elect Joe Biden today held a virtual round table with frontline workers. During the discussion, he warned the lack of information-sharing by the Trump administration with Mr. Biden’s transition team could leave the next administration “behind weeks or months” to implement its COVID response plans. “I am optimistic but we should be further along” in the transition process, Biden said. “We’ve been unable to get access to kinds of things we need to know about the depth of stockpiles — we know there is not much at all.”

The president-elect spoke with a firefighter, a school nurse, a home care worker, and a nurse, who explained she has not yet been given a COVID test. “You’re kidding me!” Mr. Biden responded and promised his team would be rolling out “quick-turn around testing” for the country.

He also called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday “to congratulate her on her election as Democratic nominee for speaker of the House and express that he looks forward to working with her…on a shared agenda to get COVID-19 under control and build our economy back better,” according to a statement released by his transition team.

As Mr. Biden left the virtual roundtable taped in downtown Wilmington, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson asked Biden why he hasn’t yet called Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to discuss COVID-relief legislation with him directly. After a back-and-forth, Biden said it’s “because there’s a lot going on” but promised he would “have more to say when it’s all settled.”

STATE-BY-STATE

GEORGIA

CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that in a press conference Wednesday morning, Georgia voting systems implementation manager Gabriel Sterling said the margin in the presidential race is currently 12,781 votes in favor of President-elect Biden, after another county found that it had more ballots on hand than were reported on election night.

A similar situation occurred in another Georgia county earlier this week, when 2,700 or so ballots were found that weren’t initially reported on election night. Ahead of the midnight deadline for counties to complete their hand audits, Sterling said approximately 4.97 million ballots cast in state for the presidential election have been audited.

MICHIGAN

In a stunning reversal on Tuesday night, the Wayne County, Michigan, Board of Canvassers unanimously voted to certify the election results hours after the board deadlocked 2-2 over the issue, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster.

Wayne County is Michigan’s most populous county and home to Detroit, which is about 80% Black. In addition to certifying the election results, the canvassing board also “demands” that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson conduct a “comprehensive audit” of all of the “unexplained precincts” around the county.

The vote came after nearly three hours of public comment from Detroiters, residents from other Wayne County communities, Democrats and non-partisan poll observers who harshly criticized the county board’s Republican members for not initially certifying the results. Many of the commenters accused them of trying to disenfranchise Black voters in Detroit.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE SENATE

GEORGIA

Democratic Senate candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock, who is challenging Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler in the January Georgia Senate runoff, held a virtual press conference today calling on Loeffler to speak out against attacks on Georgia’s electoral process, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson.

Reporters asked Warnock for his response to recent GOP attacks against him, one of which targets a sermon Warnock delivered in which he says, “You cannot serve God and the military.”

Warnock replied, “The gospel lesson says that you cannot serve God and Mammon, that a person cannot have two masters. It is a spiritual lesson that is basic and foundational for people of faith.” He added, “What I was expressing was the fact that as a person of faith, my ultimate allegiance is to God and therefore, whatever else that I may commit myself to, it has to be built on a spiritual foundation.”

CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell asked Warnock how his team is mobilizing voters, since turnout may be lower in a runoff than on Election Day. He said his team is deployed around the state, and he predicted there would be record turnout on the Democratic side.

IN THE HOUSE

LEADERSHIP

During a virtual vote among House Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership sailed through the nomination process Wednesday to be re-elected. Virtually all leadership positions ran unopposed, except for the open assistant speaker slot which was filled by Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark.

House Republicans tied vulnerable members to Speaker Pelosi throughout the 2020 campaign and sent press releases on Thursday to districts of the members that won re-election, centered around whether the speaker would have enough final confirmation votes, noting the 15 votes against her in the 116th Congress. Pelosi will need to hold onto 218 votes during the formal vote on January 3, 2021 to be officially elected as speaker, and Democrats are working with a much smaller majority than the 233 seats they had after 2018. Republicans were able to unseat at least 11 incumbent Democrats this cycle and CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro says at least seven uncalled House races remain, with four of them being held by incumbent Democrats.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Congressman Tom Emmer is keeping his spot as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee after a successful down-ballot performance on election day. “I think he’s probably out recruiting right now for the 2022 class that’s going to get us back in the majority,” GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said during a presser after the nomination vote Tuesday. Democrat Congressmen Tony Cardenas of California and Sean Patrick Maloney of New York are running to be the next DCCC Chair, and that election will take place the week of November 30.

GOP WOMEN

At least 27 Republican women will be headed to the House next year, breaking records set in 2006, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. During a post-election press briefing Wednesday,Winning for Women Action Fund Director Micah Yousefi said the success this cycle has given them a “model” for adding to the GOP’s ranks, and shrinking the number gap between them and Democratic Congresswomen. “This was the first time we saw this kind of support from leadership to the House party committee…it clearly worked, there’s no reason not to duplicate that bigger and better in future cycles,” she said, adding that women could be inspired to run after seeing women win this cycle.

NRCC Executive Director Parker Poling said every single flipped seat for Republicans was carried out by a woman, minority or veteran candidate. “Peter Meijer is our token white male,” she joked, referencing the flipped seat in Michigan’s 3rd. “Some of our best fundraisers in the entire country were women…I mean Nancy Mace raised $2.5 million in the final quarter. We didn’t just have female candidates, we had extraordinary female candidates.”

Poling noted there were districts where their candidate had to outperform the president, such as in Texas’ 24th, Indiana’s 5th, and California’s 39th and 48th Districts. “I do think that just looking and sounding a little bit different, does help give you that little push in those really tough swing districts,” she said.

GOVERNOR’S MANSION

COVID STRATEGY

President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are scheduled to have a call Thursday with the governors about the pandemic, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro.

A National Governors Association official says the call’s goal is “to open the dialogue on COVID-19 mitigation strategies including the distribution of a vaccine.” NGA Chair and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo first announced the call on MSNBC on Monday, criticizing Trump’s handling of the crisis. “They didn’t handle the COVID testing operation, the PPE operation, the Defense Production Act – this federal administration failed at every turn. In some ways I say let’s just move on. Let Joe Biden take the reins, let him start working with the governors and let’s get it done because I don’t believe Trump has the capacity to do it anyway,” he said.

CBS News political correspondent Ed O’Keefe reports that members of the bipartisan NGA Leadership Committee will be on the call. This includes: NGA Chair Governor Cuomo of New York, Vice Chair Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Republican Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama, Democrat Governor Jared Polis of Colorado, Republican Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, Republican Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Democrat Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Republican Governor Gary Herbert of Utah.